Beta-defensins comprise a family of cationic peptides, which are predominately expressed at epithelial surfaces and have a broad-range antimicrobial activity. We have assembled two BAC-based contigs from the chromosomal region 8A4 that contain the murine defensins, and we have mapped six reported beta-defensin genes. In addition, we have isolated and functionally characterized a novel beta-defensin gene that deviates from the canonical six cysteine motif present in the mature functional peptide of all other beta-defensins. This defensin-related gene (Defr1) is most highly expressed in testis and heart. The genomic organization is highly similar to Defb3, 4, 5, and 6, and the exon 1 sequence is very highly conserved. A synthetic Defr1 peptide displayed antimicrobial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, and Burkholderia cepacia. The antimicrobial activity of Defr1 against S. aureus, E.coli, and B. cepacia was found to be reduced in raised concentration of NaCl, but its action against P. aeruginosa was independent of NaCl concentration. This is the first report of a functional beta defensin that lacks one of the conserved cysteine residues in its predicted mature peptide. This study has major implications for the structure and functions of these important host defense molecules.